Smart TV: NFL London Games, Joe Buck, World Series Ratings

Smart TV is a weekly series that includes TV news, reviews, and recommendations on what shows to watch. 

NFL London Game Broadcast Team

The NFL wrapped up the 2018 London series this past Sunday. Even though the overseas marketing gimmick is disruptive to a football team’s normal flow, the experience of watching football at 9:30 AM was more fan-friendly than I anticipated.

In the past, I have watched London games but was never invested in the action. This was the first time that my team, the Eagles, was playing a regular season game in London. Watching kickoff with my morning coffee was surprisingly freeing. Having a win in the books before lunch allowed me to enjoy Sunday afternoon.

Smart TV: London Games

Watching the NFL’s London broadcast team was not quite as fun. A four-man NFL Network studio team led by Rich Eisen called the contest. Eisen is a veteran TV talent, but this was his first-ever NFL play-by-play. It felt like it.

While Eisen broadcast the game as well as he could, much of the Eagles-Jaguars game felt like it was being called from the crew’s normal studio perch. It was a reminder of how hard it is to broadcast sports well.

The best play-by-play guys and color analysts make it look easy, something that critics and trolls often forget. Not every regular broadcaster is great at their gig, but the ones who are good bring an extra element to the TV audience’s experience.

Joe Buck

Speaking of broadcasters, let’s talk about Joe Buck. He is often maligned as a broadcaster, but Buck is one of the best play-by-play announcers in sports.

This was apparent during the 2018 World Series. FOX has the best national MLB broadcast team. They are far superior to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball crew and just above the MLB Network.

Buck, John Smoltz, Tom Verducci, and Ken Rosenthal provide informative and enjoyable commentary that does not overpower the action on the field. This stems from Bucks’ best attributes as a play-by-play man. He knows how to let the game breathe.

Buck’s World Series work is doubly impressive when his workload is put into context. He called every game of the World Series plus FOX’s Thursday Night Football game. Buck also broadcast an epic Game 3 that ran longer than the entire 1939 World Series.

Most importantly, Buck and Co. called the game at a high level. Even when Game 3 reached 3:30 AM EST, the broadcast’s commentary was still engaging and descriptive. That is not easy to do for seven-plus hours. It is time to appreciate Joe Buck as a great play-by-play announcer.

2018 World Series Ratings

The 2018 World Series ratings were counter intuitive to market size. Two big market teams from Boston and Los Angeles are normally a gift for networks. The average broadcast for the 2018 World Series only drew 14.3 million viewers. The number is a 23 percent decrease from the 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and Astros.

Despite being on a Sunday night, Game 5 only drew 17.13 million viewers. As a whole, the five games represent the fourth-lowest rated World Series since 2010.

World Series ratings Smart TV

Low World Series ratings are just one of a few problematic issues facing Major League Baseball. Questions related to the length of games and pace of play have plagued baseball for a few seasons.

The sluggish pace also effects attendance. MLB’s regular season attendance dropped below 70 million fans for the first time since 2003. Only 13 teams saw their attendance go up from 2017. 17 witnessed declines. Some of these factors can be attributed to new accounting methodology, weather, and tanking. It is still troubling for the long term health of the sport.

In the DVR era, the value of sports is crucial for networks seeking to retain the live audience. Baseball is facing a big league problem with losing fans. The sluggish pace really became apparent to me when I attended Phillies games this year. Even games featuring a quasi-competitive team crawled. The action on the field has decreased and the average game time is over three hours long.

I can devote three hours to the Eagles. They only play 16 times a year. I am a bigger baseball fan, but no one can reasonably devote three hours to 162 slow-moving games. MLB needs to address these issues quickly before they become synonymous with the NHL as a second-tier league.


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